Prank call DJs distressed by nurse's death

Last updated 08:00 11/12/2012

Two Australian radio announcers who made a prank call to a British hospital treating Prince William's pregnant wife Kate speak of their distress at the death of the nurse who took their call.

Australian DJs 'gutted' by nurse's death

Global backlash over royal prank

Royal hoax nurse missed

2DayFM radio presenters Michael Christian and Mel Greig
'GUTTED': 2DayFM radio presenters Michael Christian, left, and Mel Greig.

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Two Australian radio announcers who made a prank call to a British hospital treating Prince William's pregnant wife Kate broke a three-day silence last night to speak of their distress at the apparent suicide of the nurse who took their call.

The 2DayFM Sydney-based announcers, Mel Greig and Michael Christian, said the tragedy had left them ''shattered, gutted, heartbroken''.

Greig and fellow presenter and prank mastermind Christian have been in hiding since nurse Jacintha Saldanha's death and the subsequent social media outrage at their prank.

Greig told Australian television her first thought when told of Saldanha's death was for her family.

''Unfortunately I remember that moment very well, because I haven't stopped thinking about it since it happened,'' she said,  amid tears and her voice quavering with emotion. ''I remember my first question was 'was she a mother?'.''

''I've wanted to just reach out to them and just give them a big hug and say sorry. I hope they're okay, I really do. I hope they get through this,'' said a black-clad Greig when asked about mother of two Saldanha's children, left grieving their mother's death with their father Ben Barboza.

Saldanha, 46, was found dead in staff accommodation near London's King Edward VII hospital on Friday after putting the hoax call through to a colleague who unwittingly disclosed details of Kate's morning sickness to 2DayFM's presenters.

A recording of the call, broadcast repeatedly by the station, rapidly became an internet hit and was reprinted as a transcript in many newspapers.

But news of Saldanha's death sparked the Internet firestorm, with vitriolic comments towards the DJs on Facebook and Twitter.

Christian said his only wish was that Saldanha's grief-stricken family received proper support.

''I hope that they get the love, the support, the care that they need, you know,'' said Christian, who like Greig struggled to talk about the tragedy.

Both Greig, 30, and Christian were relatively new to the station, with Greig joining in March and Christian having been in the job only a few days before the prank call after a career in regional radio.

Greig said she did not think their prank would work.

''We thought a hundred people before us would've tried it. We thought it was such a silly idea and the accents were terrible and not for a second did we expect to speak to Kate, let alone have a conversation with anyone at the hospital. We wanted to be hung up on,'' she said.

Christian drew headlines only two weeks before the royal prank call by angering fellow passengers with a harmonica playing stunt aboard pop star Rihanna's private jet.

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Following the furore surrounding the radio station and it's hosts, Southern Cross Austereo (SCA), the owner of 2Day FM, has cancelled the Hot 30 show and issued a company-wide suspension of prank calls.

This follows the suspension of all advertising on 2Day FM that was announced at the weekend.  Greig and Christian, were already indefinitely suspended after their prank call to the hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was a patient.

"SCA and the hosts of the radio program have also decided that they will not return to the airwaves until further notice," the company said in a statement.

The company has received more than 1,000 complaints from Australians over the actions of the popular presenters.

Shares in SCA fell 5 per cent yesterday after two major Australian companies pulled their advertising with the radio station in protest and other advertising was suspended.

The station said it had tried to contact hospital staff five times over the recordings.

''It is absolutely true to say that we actually did attempt to contact those people on multiple occasions,'' said SCA chief executive Rhys Holleran.

''No one could have reasonably foreseen what has happened. I can only say the prank call is not unusual around the world,'' he said.

The fallout from the radio stunt has brought back memories in Britain of the death of William's mother Diana in a Paris car crash in 1997 and threatens to cast a pall over the birth of his and Kate's first child.

Australia's Communications Minister Stephen Conroy sought to deflect calls for more media regulation, telling journalists that a looming investigation by Australia's independent regulator should be allowed to happen without political interference.

WHERE TO GET HELP IF YOU ARE DEPRESSED:

Lifeline: 0800 543 354

Depression helpline: 0800 111 757

Youthline: 0800 376 633

Samaritans: 0800 726 666

In an emergency, dial 111

- Reuters

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